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Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49

Posted Jul 01 2010 5:55pm
Women in their 40s should not get routine mammograms for early detection of breast cancer , according to updated guidelines set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Before having a mammogram, women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of the test, and then decide if they want to be screened, according to the task force.

For women ages 50 to 74, it recommends routine mammography screenings every two years. Risks and benefits for women age 75 and above are unknown, it said.

The group's previous recommendation was for routine screenings every year or two for women age 40 and older.

The task force is composed of 16 health care experts, none of whom are oncologists. The group reviews medical data and bases recommendations on effectiveness and risks involved.

"All we are saying is, at age 40, a woman should make an appointment with her doctor and have a conversation about the benefits and harms of having a mammography now versus waiting to age 50," said Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of the task force.


While roughly 15 percent of women in their 40s detect breast cancer through mammography, many other women experience false positives, anxiety, and unnecessary biopsies as a result of test.

"With its new recommendations, the [task force] is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them," Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

The organization says it looked at virtually the same data as the task force but came to a different conclusion. "Breast cancer is a serious health problem facing adult women, and mammography is part of our solution beginning at age 40 for average-risk women," it says. It recommends annual exams beginning at that age.
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